Friday, February 22, 2013

Limit Major Decisions to Three People to Avoid Wasting Time

Limit Major Decisions to Three People to Avoid Wasting TimeCollaboration is great, but sometimes collaboration can devolve into useless debate that doesn't get you anywhere. The Globe and Mail recommend limiting those big decisions to three people or less.

The fewer people are involved, the less time you'll end up wasting:

Use the rule of three. Keep major decisions to three or fewer people. The more people involved the longer it takes to come to a consensus. Small teams coordinate and make decisions, while big ones quibble and form committees.

Similarly, they say meetings can be toxic to productivity, particularly if you do a bad job of sticking to the meeting's agenda. You don't want to undermine your coworkers by making every decision without them, but sometimes, things need to be decided quickly in order to keep productive and move forward. It's up to you to decide when that is. Hit the link for 10 more productivity tips for working with teams.

Ten ways to increase employee productivity | The Globe and Mail via Reddit

Photo by Office Now.


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NBA trade deadline; Twitter comma fail and a table tennis trick shot

NBA trade deadline; Twitter comma fail and a table tennis trick shot

By Josh Furlong

February 21st, 2013 @ 12:16pm

SALT LAKE CITY ? Will they or won't they? That's all Utah Jazz fans will be wondering for most of Thursday.

Every season, it seems talking about the rumors are more fun than them actually taking place (or not for that matter). However, in Jazz history, when has there ever been a major trade that means something to the average fan?

Two trades immediately come to my mind. In recent memory, the Jazz trading their all-star point guard Deron Williams (you may have heard of him) to the New Jersey Nets sent shock waves through the state. The initial take was that then-General Manager Kevin O'Connor was throwing away the team. Who really trades away an all-star point guard anyway?

However, the trade netted then-rookie Derrick Favors and the draft rights to Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. All three have the potential to be the future for the Jazz. Not a bad trade in hindsight.

The second trade came in the mid-90s when the Jazz traded Jeff Malone for shooting guard Jeff Hornacek. The trade is arguably one of the biggest moves the Jazz have made because he was instrumental in helping the Jazz reach the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998 against the Chicago Bulls. And while we're at it, Michael Jordan did push off, but that's a moot point now.

The Jazz need a point guard, but is now the time to make that move? Trade rumors have been reported on and other sites saying the Jazz are in discussion with the Los Angeles Clippers to trade Paul Millsap for Eric Bledsoe, but how likely is the rumor to be true? I'm sure the Jazz have talked about it, but I doubt the Jazz will actually pull the trigger and make the trade.

Do you break up team chemistry and hope to get the No. 4 spot in the playoffs, or wait until the offseason to make some moves and stay in the lower end of the playoff picture? I'm guessing the Jazz will take the latter option, but we'll know soon enough.


Undoubtedly, Wisconsin Badgers head coach Gary Andersen is gearing up for the start of spring practice; however, I don't think his plans involve hurting any Badgers fans ? at least not on purpose.

On Wednesday, someone from the Badgers' staff tweeted out what was meant to be a harmless tweet about spring practices coming up. "If you've got some time to kill #Badgers fans, check out our updated Football video playlist on YouTube."

As was quickly pointed out to the staff, the tweet failed to include a comma and completely changed the meaning of the tweet. Fortunately, the individual who sent out the initial tweet could have fun with it, tweeting later, "And please, if you're going to RT our #CommaFail, have the decency to include the YouTube link. #commasforclicks."

Table tennis trick shot

Yes, I'm writing to show you a table tennis trick shot. Honestly, it wouldn't take a lot to be a trick shot when playing against me, but for a professional, it's hard to be stunned by an opponent's shot.

At last weekend's Kuwait Open, France's Quentin Robinot pulled off an impressive shot that left Belarus's Kiryl Barabanov stunned. Barabanov stood there for a while dazed, but then congratulated Robinot on the shot.

Many could easily react differently in that situation, but at least Barabanov recognized the great shot and gave credit where credit was due.

Josh Furlong, Managing Editor

Josh Furlong is the Managing Editor for, writer and manager of the Statecraft: Government & Politics section on



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Timberlake and Jay-Z announce summer tour

By Erin Carlson, The Hollywood Reporter

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

It's official: confirming the hype-fueled rumors, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z have announced that they will indeed head out on tour together.

The summer stadium tour, dubbed "Legends of The Summer," kicks off a series of 12 concerts starting July 17 in Toronto and winds down Aug. 16 in Miami. The two will also play in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Detroit, Baltimore and Hershey, Pa. (See more details here.)

STORY: Justin Timberlake books 'SNL,' 'Late Night'

Tickets go on sale Feb. 28, via Live Nation, for all cities except New York.?

STORY: Keith Urban on 'Idol' season 12: 'It's a Girl's Year'

Timberlake's upcoming album, "The 20/20 Experience," will be released March 19 on RCA Records. Timberlake has already released two singles, "Suit & Tie" with Jay-Z and the eight-minute "Mirrors," and performed "Pusher Love Girl" and "That Girl" live. It was announced earlier this week that Timberlake and Jay-Z would headline London's Wireless Festival this summer.

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News in Brief: Synthetic nanomaterial can recognize viruses

New method may have advantages over antibody-based technologies

By Puneet Kollipara

Web edition: February 20, 2013


Nanoparticle power

Researchers have created nanoparticles (blue) that can detect a plant virus with a common form (imprint shown in pink) and distinguish it from similar types.

Credit: Alessandro Cumbo and Martin Oeggerli

A new synthetic nanomaterial can identify a common type of virus and distinguish it from lookalikes. The method holds promise for diagnostics, environmental monitoring and potentially some therapies, an international team of researchers reports February 19 in Nature Communications.

Current methods to identify viruses do so using natural molecules such as antibodies, which can be expensive and unstable. Synthetic nanomaterials could be more stable and cheaper if they can be designed to recognize and bind viruses as effectively as antibodies do.

Patrick Shahgaldian at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland and colleagues bound several turnip yellow mosaic viruses ? plant viruses with a common shape ? to the surface of silica nanoparticles. Then the team grew a layer of organosilanes ? molecules containing carbon-silicon bonds ? that surrounded the viruses.

After the researchers detached the viruses, the organosilane layer had imprints that not only matched the viruses? shape but also were able to recognize them chemically. The nanoparticles successfully bound the template viruses while largely ignoring another similarly shaped one.

Researchers are close to using the method on other viruses with shapes similar to that of the turnip yellow mosaic virus, and they hope to study human viruses, Shahgaldian says.


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Chromebook Pixel hands-on

Chromebook Pixel handson

Taking a small stage in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, Google's Sundar Pichai introduced the Chromebook Pixel, the company's attempt to "rethink everything" in terms of laptop design. We can't say that the touchscreen notebook is a stark departure from the category's norm, but it certainly feels like a solid piece of kit. Weighing in at 3.35 pounds, the Chromebook Pixel's unibody frame looks and feels somewhat like a MacBook Pro -- flanking a comfortable chicklet keyboard and a luxuriously large trackpad with a small dip at its south end. The usual bevy of navigation and control keys headline the keyboard, and the machine's left side is populated by a Mini DisplayPort port, a power plug and two USB 2.0 plugs. The right edge houses an SD / MMC card reader and, well nothing else. The Pixel is a minimalist machine, and it both looks and feels good for the subtlety of design.

The machine's real star is its 12-inch, 3:2 display. True to Google's word, the screen is gorgeous, and makes full use of that 2,560 x 1,700 resolution. Photos pop, text is crystal clear and at 400-nits, everything is stunningly bright. At first swipe, it seems to be a capable touchscreen too -- in the few minutes we had with the device, we didn't have any trouble flicking our way through Engadget's news roll, though the traditional trackpad still feels more natural at this stage. Still, everything we did was comfortable, eye-catching and rather quick, thanks, no doubt, to the Pixel's Intel Core-i5 processer. First impressions? Very solid, and possibly the finest Chromebook yet -- but at $1,299 for WiFi and $1,449 for LTE, it had better be. Skip on past the break for a hands-on video and a second hand look at the Pixel's high resolution display.

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Lakers owner Jerry Buss remembered at service

Johnny Buss speaks during a memorial service for his father Jerry Buss, the late Los Angeles Lakers owner who died Monday from cancer complications, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Johnny Buss speaks during a memorial service for his father Jerry Buss, the late Los Angeles Lakers owner who died Monday from cancer complications, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

The Southern California marching band prepares to play "Amazing Grace" during a memorial service for Jerry Buss, the late Los Angeles Lakers owner who died Monday from cancer complications, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Shaquille O'Neal, former Los Angeles Lakers center and current television analyst, arrives at a memorial service for Jerry Buss, the late Lakers owner who died Monday from cancer complications, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson during a memorial service for Jerry Buss, the late Lakers owner who died Monday from cancer complications, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Former Los Angeles Lakers player Earvin "Magic" Johnson arrives at a memorial service for Jerry Buss, whose Lakers won 10 NBA basketball championships under his ownership, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 in Los Angeles. Buss died on Monday. He was 80. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

(AP) ? Magic Johnson considered himself to be the adopted son of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Shaquille O'Neal hailed Buss for his foresight, while Kobe Bryant cited Buss' ability to convince people to believe in him. Jerry West remembered a party-loving Buss who never went to bed, making it easy to be the first one at work in the morning.

They were among the basketball greats gathered Thursday at an invitation-only memorial service to salute the life and legacy of Buss, who died this week at 80 after an 18-month struggle with cancer.

The stage at the Nokia Theatre across from Staples Center was bedecked with all 10 of the NBA championship trophies won by the Lakers under Buss and more than 30 floral arrangements. Photos of Buss throughout his life flashed on a video screen.

Johnson punctuated the 1 1/2-hour service by getting the audience on its feet, clapping and cheering for Buss. "He didn't like it sad, he wanted it to be fun," Johnson said.

O'Neal recalled Buss bringing him on the floor at the Forum in Inglewood and telling him to look up at the championship banners in the rafters.

"He told me, 'Son, we expect big things out of you and some 18-year-old kid we just signed, Kobe Bryant,'" O'Neal told the audience, which filled about half of the 7,000-seat venue.

O'Neal and Bryant certainly delivered, teaming to win three titles despite their personal discord.

"He gave me everything I wanted," O'Neal said of Buss. "I wanted one extension, he gave it to me. I wanted a second extension, he gave it to me. I wanted a third extension, he traded me."

Johnson told of arriving in Los Angeles and not knowing anyone as a 19-year-old drafted by the Lakers out of Michigan State.

"God knew I needed a father figure," he said, explaining how Buss quickly filled the role by taking Johnson to his first boxing match in Las Vegas, his first tennis match, and his first horse race at Hollywood Park across from the Forum.

"I said, 'Dr. Buss, I'm a black man from Lansing, Michigan. We don't know anything about horse racing,'" Johnson said, drawing laughs. "I went and enjoyed myself."

After the Los Angeles Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky in a blockbuster deal in 1988, Johnson reluctantly attended his first hockey game, telling Buss, "Brothers don't skate."

Buss replied, "The way you play basketball that man plays hockey. I want you to see the Magic man of hockey."

But it wasn't until Johnson's 1992 public admission that he had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, did he realize how Buss really felt about him.

"As we cried for hours, him not knowing I would be here 22 years later, he picked up the phone and started calling hospitals to make sure I had the best health care possible and the best doctors," Johnson said. "That's when I knew this man cared for me outside of basketball, outside of making no-look passes."

Among the other speakers were NBA commissioner David Stern, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol (who spoke in Spanish) and Pat Riley.

Jackson, now engaged to Buss' daughter Jeanie, recalled the summer of 2008 when a fed-up Bryant went public with his trade demand.

"Jerry listened to the demands of Kobe and his agent," Jackson said. "He said, 'There's no equal value we can get for you.' He prevailed and we won two more championships."

When it was Bryant's turn at the mic, he said the biggest summer for him was 2006 when Buss asked what he thought of Jackson returning for a second stint coaching the Lakers. Bryant was hesitant.

"He just looked at me and said, 'Trust me,' and I did and that took us to another level winning two championships," he said. "He had this ability to convince you to follow him."

West first met Buss in 1979, having already worked for two previous owners of the Lakers, including Jack Kent Cooke, who sold the team to Buss. West had to get used to Buss' lust for life that included hard work and heartier partying.

He recalled one celebration in which Buss had forgotten his credit card and asked West to pick up a tab that included $8,000 for champagne alone. Another time he was out with Buss and work ethic was being discussed.

"He never went to bed so how the hell could he not be the first one to work?" West said.

Johnny Buss, the oldest of the six Buss children, spoke on behalf of the family. He mentioned his father's penchant for wearing jeans cut off at the bottom.

"They would fringe and I caught him one time combing the bottom of the fringe," he said, suggesting that on every Jan. 27 ? his father's birthday ? people don jeans with the bottom cut off in Jerry's honor.

The younger Buss provided insight into life with his father, who loved travel, wine, poker, books, classical music and movies. He called him "a man who would take us on an incredible journey that no one could ever imagine."

"Not everything went right but because he was always thinking ahead, everything became right," Johnny Buss said. "He never had to step on anyone to get ahead. He surrounded himself with good people. He loved L.A. and as we can see L.A. loved him, too."

The audience included the current Lakers team, Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Bill Walton, former Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich, former Lakers Byron Scott, A.C. Green and Cedric Ceballos, retired Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie, former Southern California athletic director Mike Garrett, longtime Lakers fan Dyan Cannon, and Los Angeles Kings broadcasters Bob Miller and Jim Fox.

The speeches were interspersed with performances, including nine members of the USC band playing "Amazing Grace." Randy Newman, whose iconic "I Love LA" anthem is played at every Lakers game, sang his hit "You've Got a Friend in Me" from the movie "Toy Story." Davis Gaines sang a number from "Phantom of the Opera."

Johnson ended the memorial with a plea to Buss' six children who control a majority stake in the team.

"Please Buss family, do not ever sell the Lakers, and win more championships," said Johnson, who owns a share of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Buss is to be buried Friday in a private service.

Associated Press


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Warmer Waters Make Weaker Mussels

Click here to listen to this podcast

When it comes to mussels, bigger isn?t necessarily better. Tiny fibers called byssals enable mussels?the shellfish kind?to anchor themselves to coastlines despite crashing ocean waves. But new research shows that the attachment fibers weaken in warm water. A temperature rise of 15 degrees Fahrenheit lessens fiber strength by 60 percent, possibly causing them to fail completely. As climate change raises ocean temperatures, mussels may be forced to cooler waters. Emily Carrington of the University of Washington presented the research at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston: "Researchers have dissected mussel beds and found, I think, upwards of 100 different species. So if the mussels go it really changes that community. "We also eat mussels and so there?s applications in aquaculture. The way they grow mussels, is the mussels have to remain attached to the ropes on their long lines. So if the mussels fall off before the farmers return to reap their harvest, then they?ve lost a lot of money." ?Calla Cofield [The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit for the latest in science, health and technology news.
? 2013 All rights reserved.


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Taliban vow to keep targeting Afghan officials

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ? The Taliban vowed Thursday to target government employees and other Afghan civilians they consider linked to the U.S.-led coalition despite a warning from the United Nations that such killings may violate international law.

Zabiullah Mujahid rejected an annual report issued by the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan that accused the Taliban of targeting civilians and blamed the insurgency for the overwhelming majority of deaths in its war against President Hamid Karzai's government and the foreign military coalition.

"Regretfully the report published by the head of the UNAMA in Kabul, about the civilian casualties in the country, does not bear impartiality," Mujahid said in the email, written in English.

The report, issued earlier in the week, found that 2,754 civilians were killed in 2012, a 12 percent decrease from 3,131 in the same period a year earlier. It was the first time in six years that the civilian death toll dropped.

It said the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 81 percent of the civilian casualties last year. It said so-called anti-government elements killed 2,179 civilians and wounded 3,952 ? a 9 percent increase in such casualties from 2011.

Of those, 698 were killed in targeted attacks, often against government employees. That was up from 512 in 2011.

"Now within that proportion, the killing of civilian government employees went up by 700 percent," Georgette Gagnon, the head of human rights for UNAMA, said in presenting the report on Tuesday.

Chief U.N. envoy Jan Kubis welcomed the decline in casualties but warned militants who target civilians will face justice.

Mujahid retorted that the Taliban do not consider many of these people to be civilians.

"No Afghan can accept that the above mentioned people are civilian. We have pledged in the beginning of our yearly operations that these people are criminals. They are directly involved in the protraction of our country's invasion and legally we do not find any difficulty in their elimination, rather we consider it our obligation," Mujahid said.

He also denied that the Taliban were specifically targeting civilians with homemade bombs.

"The obvious thing is that our enemy is exhausted with our mine tactics and has suffered serious losses and you want to defame our effective resource," Mujahid said.

The U.N. said the number of civilian casualties from roadside bombs was growing even as fewer bystanders were hurt in ground engagements in the troubled south and east of the country.

Although casualties overall dropped, the number of Afghan civilians killed and wounded in the last half of 2012 rose sharply compared with the same period in 2011 as insurgents took advantage of warmer weather to carry out more attacks.

That increase suggests that the country is likely to face continued violence as the Taliban and other militants fight for control following the impending withdrawal of U.S. and coalition combat forces at the end of 2014.

In violence around Afghanistan, a German soldier was wounded and two Afghan policemen were killed in a pre-dawn operation against insurgents in the Khawaj Ghaltan neighborhood of the eastern city of Kunduz. Four insurgents were also killed, said Sarwar Husseini, the spokesman for the provincial police chief.

He said the firefight between Afghan police special forces and the insurgents lasted four hours. The German, who was mentoring the police was slightly wounded, Husseini said, adding that neither he nor any other foreign troops took part in the operation.

Also in the southern city of Kandahar a police officer was killed and two were wounded in a hand grenade attack, said Javeed Faisal, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

U.S. and coalition military forces have already taken a back seat in the conflict with Afghan security forces taking the lead for security in more than 90 percent of the country.

The Afghan lead in fighting has already become apparent in the casualty figures.

So far this year only eight members of the coalition have been killed, including three Americans.

U.S. troop deaths declined overall from 404 in 2011 to 295 in 2012. More than 2,000 U.S. troops and nearly 1,100 coalition troops have died here since the U.S. invasion in late 2001. Last year many of those deaths were at the hands of the Afghan forces they were partnered with or training. Deaths from so-called insider attacks ? Afghan police and troops killing foreign allies ? surged to 61 in 45 attacks last year compared with 2011, when 35 coalition troops were killed in 21 attacks

By comparison, more than 1,200 Afghan soldiers died in 2012 compared to more than 550 in 2011, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.


Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed from Kabul.


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GOP senator signals support for Hagel nomination

WASHINGTON?Barring any new, damaging information, Chuck Hagel has secured the necessary votes for the Senate to confirm him to be the nation's next defense secretary. A vote ending the bitter fight over President Barack Obama's choice for his revamped second-term, national security team is expected next week.

Hagel cleared the threshold when five-term Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said he would vote for the former GOP senator from Nebraska after joining other Republicans last week in an unprecedented filibuster of the Pentagon nominee.

"He's probably as good as we're going to get," Shelby told the Decatur (Ala.) Daily.

Although a Republican, Hagel has faced strong GOP opposition, with many of his former colleagues voting last week to stall the nomination. Republicans have questioned Hagel's support for Israel, tolerance of Iran and willingness to cut the nuclear arsenal. His opposition to the Iraq war after his initial vote for the conflict angered his onetime friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

GOP lawmakers demanded more time to review the nomination that a divided Armed Services Committee had approved on a party-line vote.

Shelby's support was a clear sign of weakening Republican opposition, and it prompted two letters within hours from Hagel's fiercest GOP foes. One letter went to the president calling on him to withdraw the nomination, the other to GOP senators pleading with them to stand together against Hagel.


Republicans senators wrote that Hagel lacks the bipartisan support and confidence to serve in the vital job of defense secretary.

"The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial nor divisive," wrote the senators?all opponents of Hagel. Leading the effort was Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the party's No. 2, who is up for re-election next year.

One name missing from the letter was McCain, who has called Hagel unqualified but indicated last Sunday that he wouldn't stand in the way of a Senate vote.

Separately, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, sent a letter to his GOP colleagues urging them to vote again to block the nomination when the Senate returns from its recess next week. He acknowledged the reality that if the GOP fails to block a vote, Hagel proponents have the votes to approve him on an up-or-down vote.

"Make no mistake: A vote for cloture is a vote to confirm Sen. Hagel as secretary of defense," wrote Inhofe. He said that while the Senate traditionally defers to presidents on their Cabinet choices, "our nation is at war. The Senate must insist on confirming only the most effective leaders."

The Senate Republicans' closed-door weekly meeting on Tuesday will be crucial to Inhofe's hopes of keeping the GOP in line on Hagel.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney rejected GOP calls for Hagel to withdraw. He complained that Republicans were putting politics ahead of national security, pointing out that the administration wants Hagel to be part of decisions on the size of the U.S. force in Afghanistan as American and coalition forces wind down combat operations.

"This waste of time is not just meaningless political posturing because we firmly believe that Sen. Hagel will be confirmed. The waste of time is of consequence," Carney told reporters.

The Senate also is holding up the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director, with Republicans and Democrats seeking more information about the U.S. policy on the use of drones. Hagel and Brennan would join Secretary of State John Kerry in Obama's overhauled, second-term national security team.

If confirmed, Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran, would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years first as CIA director and then Pentagon chief.

In a boost for Hagel's nomination, former Republican leader Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran, issued a statement Thursday saying, "Hagel's wisdom and courage make him uniquely qualified to be secretary of defense and lead the men and women of our armed forces. Chuck Hagel will be an exceptional leader at an important time."

Hagel is expected to get all 55 Democratic votes and the support of three Republicans?Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Shelby. Two other Republicans?Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska?voted last week to allow the nomination to move ahead and are expected to do the same next week, giving Hagel the requisite 60 votes out of 100 necessary to end a filibuster.

An up-or-down vote on confirmation, with only a majority necessary, could occur as early as Wednesday.

The filibuster left the administration angry and troubled by the prospect of a nomination in limbo, with opposition groups redoubling their efforts to scuttle Hagel and the uncertainty of a weeklong Senate break. But the administration is more confident about Hagel's prospects after private conversations with several senators to ensure Hagel gets past the 60-vote barrier, according to an official close to the confirmation process. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Hagel's nomination also has become entangled in GOP demands for more information from the Obama administration about the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has described Hagel as "radical" and pressed for Obama to abandon the nomination. Graham sent a new letter to Hagel this week with fresh questions about Israel, after Hagel responded to a separate Graham letter on Israel last week.


Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.


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Colorado Heats up with Dickey's Pit-Smoked ... -

Nation?s Largest Barbecue Franchise Opens New Location in Fort Collins

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Feb. 20, 2013 - (BUSINESS WIRE) - Dickey?s Barbecue Pit will be opening its ninth Colorado location on Thursday, February 21 at 11 a.m., and the first 100 guests will receive a free Pulled Pork Big Barbecue sandwich. The nation?s largest BBQ franchise is opening its newest location in Midtown Commons, in the former Senor Camaron?s location in Fort Collins.

?People in Fort Collins are constantly on the go,? said franchise owner Brenda Black who owns and operates this location along with her husband/business partner Rex Schweers. ?We are excited to offer authentic barbecue that is slow smoked, but served fast to this great community.?

The couple is ecstatic to be opening the ninth Dickey?s in Colorado. Dickey?s other locations in the state include Colorado Springs, Centennial, Highlands Ranch and a location coming soon to Rifle.

?We were looking for a successful business venture to join,? said Black. ?Dickey?s was a perfect fit because of its impressive growth and family atmosphere.?

This new location is at 2721 South College Avenue and the store phone number is 970.797.2610. To stay current on this store and all its smokin? hot deals, visit Dickey?s Barbecue Pit - Fort Collins on Facebook.

About Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants

Dickey?s Barbecue was founded by Travis Dickey with the goal of authentic slow smoked barbecue. More than 70 years later, the Dallas-based family run barbecue franchise still offers a quality selection of signature meats, home style sides, tangy barbecue sauce and free kids meals every Sunday. All meats are slow smoked on site in each restaurant. The fast-casual family-friendly concept has expanded to over 280 locations in 43 states and holds the title of the world?s largest barbecue franchise. This year Nation?s Restaurant News named Dickey?s ?Top Five Growth Chains? and they were also named ?Best Franchise Deal? by QSR Magazine. For more information, visit Dickey?s or for barbecue franchise opportunities call (866) 340-6188.


Dickey?s Barbecue
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mini microscopes see inside the brains of mice

Mini microscopes embedded into the brains of genetically engineered mice are providing researchers a window onto the inner workings of the mammalian mind.

The tool provides an unprecedentedly wide field of view on the mouse brain ? in one mouse, for example, the team recorded the firing of more than 1,000 individual neurons ? and it can record for weeks on end, allowing scientists to study how brain activity evolves over time.

?That kind of question, the time-lapse question, has not been previously examined in freely behaving mice,? Mark Schnitzer, an associate professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, told NBC News.

He and colleagues described the tool earlier this month in the journal Nature Neuroscience and have launched a startup company, Inscopix Inc., to market the mini microscopes to researchers who study neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer?s and other brain disorders.

Fluorescing neurons
The mini microscopes are mounted into little circles removed from the mouse cranium. They wear them around like a hat, Schnitzer explained.

Neurons in the mice?s hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with spatial memory, are genetically engineered to express green fluorescence protein, especially in the presence of calcium. When a neuron fires, the cell naturally floods with calcium ions, and thus fluoresces more intensely.

The mini microscope is connected to a camera chip, which routes images of neurons fluorescing to a computer screen. The result is a near real-time video of the mouse?s brain activity as it runs around a small enclosure. Check it out in the video below.

To the untrained eye, the firing neurons appear chaotic and random, but the researchers discerned a clear pattern. Specific neurons fire in association with specific areas in the enclosure.

?The individual neurons seem to have preferences regarding the mouse?s location in space,? Schnitzer explained. ?This neuron might fire when the mouse is over here and that neuron might fire when the mouse is over there.?

Disease studies
While this spatial mapping was known from previous studies, the ability to image many hundreds of neurons at once and for long enough to watch the brain evolve is novel, Schnitzer said. The tool may come in handy for researchers studying the evolution of diseases such as Alzheimer?s.

For example, the National Institutes of Health has supported the development of mouse models of human brain diseases, Schnitzer explained. Using the tool, researchers could compare the evolution of a healthy mouse with one known to have a model of Alzheimer?s.

This might, Schnitzer said, allow researchers to ?see maybe what early symptoms look like before it is even apparent at the behavioral level. And one could imagine providing therapeutics and seeing the effects of those down to the resolution of single cells.?

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.


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WWE SmackDown Spoilers for Friday 02.22.2013 ? Alberto Del Rio Responds to Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter?s State of the Union Address

WWE SmackDown Spoilers for Friday 02.22.2013 ? Alberto Del Rio Responds to Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter?s State of the Union Address

WWE SmackDown Spoilers for 2/22/13: Alberto Del Rio comes out and says it?s time for WrestleMania! He then turns his attention to Jack Swagger and says the United States was built by hardworking immigrants and that Swagger is a jackass. Suddenly, Randy Orton?s music hits to a HUGE pop. Randy asks Del Rio to back off from Swagger tonight so that he can take out his anger in Jack for costing Orton his title shot at the Elimination Chamber PPV.

This leads to Booker T making two matches: Del Rio vs. Wade Barrett (champ vs. champ) and Orton vs. Swagger.

Match 1. Sheamus def. Damien Sandow

Match 2. Kaitlyn and Layla def. Tamina and Aksana

Match 3. Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter) def. Randy Orton via shenanigans

Match 4. The Miz def. Cody Rhodes via the Figure Four. Like father like son!

Match 5. Alberto Del Rio (with Ricardo Rodriguez) def. Wade Barrett

Swagger and Del Rio watched from the ramp. Del Rio won with the Cross Arm Breaker and then he and Swagger stared each other down with the WrestleMania 29 sign in the camera shot.


Tags: alberto del rio, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, jack swagger, randy orton, sheamus, Smackdown, Spoilers, The Miz, Wade Barrett, WWE, Zeb Colter


CB is an Editor for Pulse Wrestling and an original member of the Inside Pulse writing team covering the spectrum of pop culture including pro wrestling, sports, movies, music, radio and television.

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Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood still operates secretively

CAIRO (AP) ? Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks publicly of firsthand knowledge of a meeting where opponents allegedly plotted against him.

A few months earlier, the most powerful man in his Muslim Brotherhood group, Khairat el-Shater, says he has access to recordings of former military rulers and electoral officials engineering his disqualification from last year's presidential race.

In Egypt, those statements are seen by security officials, former members of the Islamist group and independent media as strong hints that the Brotherhood might be running its own intelligence-gathering network outside of government security agencies and official channels.

Such concerns dovetail the Brotherhood, which has a long history of operating clandestinely, to suspicion that it remains a shadowy group with operations that may overlap with the normal functions of a state.

Brotherhood supporters also demonstrated militia-like capabilities at anti-Morsi protests in December.

Another oft-heard charge comes from the Foreign Ministry, where officials complain that the president relies more on trusted Brotherhood advisers than those inside the ministry in formulating foreign policy.

The Brotherhood emerged from Egypt's 2011 uprising as the country's dominant political group and Morsi was elected president in June of last year as the group's candidate.

The motive for setting up parallel operations could be rooted in the fact that many government bodies, such as security agencies and the judiciary, are still dominated by appointees of the ousted regime of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak or anti-Islamists with long-held suspicions of the Brotherhood.

The perception that such agencies are hostile to the country's new Islamist leaders lends their rule an embattled aspect despite a string of electoral victories.

"The problem with the Brotherhood is that they came to power but are still dealing with the nation as they did when they were in the opposition," said Abdel-Jalil el-Sharnoubi, former editor-in-chief of the group's website who left the Brotherhood in May 2011.

"Because they cannot trust the state, they have created their own," he added.

The notion of a state within a state has precedents elsewhere in the Arab world. In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah is the de facto government in much of the south and east of the country and has its own army and telephone network.

To a lesser extent, followers of Iraq's anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are de facto administrators of Shiite districts in Baghdad and in parts of the mostly Shiite south.

In Egypt, the situation reflects a chasm that has emerged since the uprising over the nation's future. In one camp is the Brotherhood, their Islamist allies and a fairly large segment of the population that is conservative and passively inclined toward the ideas of Islam as a way of life.

Arrayed against them is a bloc of comparable size that includes not only those who served under Mubarak in the state and security structures but also moderate Muslims, liberals, secularists, women and Christians who account for about 10 percent of the population.

The Brotherhood denies that any of its activities are illegal or amount to a state within a state.

"The Brotherhood is targeted by a defamation campaign, but will always protect its reputation and these immoral battles will never change that," said spokesman Ahmed Aref, alluding to claims that the group was running a parallel state.

"There is still an elite in Egypt that remains captive to Mubarak's own view of the Brotherhood," he added.

For most of the 85 years since its inception, the Brotherhood operated secretively as an outlawed group, working underground and often repressed by governments.

But even after its political success, the group is still suspected of secretive operations.

The Brotherhood counters that it has legitimacy on its side, having consistently won at the ballot box since Mubarak's ouster. And they accuse the opposition of conspiring with former regime members in an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected administration.

The two most powerful Brotherhood figures, wealthy businessman el-Shater and spiritual leader Mohamed Badie, are seen by many in Egypt as the real source of power ? wielding massive influence over Morsi and his government.

El-Shater, according to the former Brotherhood members and security officials, is suspected of running an information gathering operation capable of eavesdropping on telephones and email.

He was the Brotherhood's first choice for presidential candidate in last year's election but was disqualified over a Mubarak-era conviction.

Following his disqualification, he publicly said last summer that he had access to recordings of telephone conversations between members of the election commission and the military council that ruled Egypt for nearly 17 months after Mubarak's ouster.

The conversations, he claimed, were to engineer throwing him out of the race. He did not say how he knew of the contacts or their contents.

Again in December, he suggested that he had access to information gathered clandestinely.

Addressing Islamists in a televised meeting, he said he has "detected from various sources" that there were meetings of people allegedly plotting to destabilize Morsi's rule.

He did not identify the alleged plotters nor say how he had learned of the meetings.

A spokesman for the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said at the time when asked for comment that it was to be expected from a group as big as the Brotherhood to have its own "resources." That was taken as virtual confirmation of a parallel intelligence gathering operation.

Morsi was also seen as suggesting that the Brotherhood was spying on critics when he spoke to supporters outside his presidential palace in November. He said he had firsthand knowledge of what transpired in a meeting of several of his critics.

"They think that they can hide away from me," he said.

The words of El-Shater and Morsi were taken as strong hints that the Brotherhood has its own intelligence gathering operation. But in a country fed on a steady diet of conspiracy theories, no hard evidence has come to light, only suspicion and talk.

A former Brotherhood member, Mohammed el-Gebbah, claimed the group had six "mini intelligence centers," including one housed in its headquarters in the Cairo district of Moqqatam.

He did not provide evidence to back his claim and another Brotherhood spokesman, Murad Ali, denied that the group has such capability.

In an off-the-cuff remark, Brotherhood stalwart Essam el-Aryan said last October that Morsi's presidential palace secretly records all "incoming and outgoing communications." The president's spokesman swiftly denied it.

But it only fed the notion of a Brotherhood parallel intelligence gathering operation with Morsi's support and cooperation.

Another concern that has arisen is whether the Brotherhood might be running its own militias outside of government security agencies.

That fear arose from a wave of mass protests that turned violent in December. Protesters for and against Morsi faced off over decrees, since rescinded, that gave the president near absolute powers.

In early December, the Brotherhood posted a "general alert" on its official Facebook page and the next day, groups of armed Brotherhood supporters attacked opposition protesters staging a sit-in outside Morsi's palace.

Thousands of Morsi supporters and opponents poured into the area and street fighting continued well into the night.

Video clips later posted on social networks showed Brotherhood supporters stripping and torturing protesters in makeshift "detention centers" set up just outside the palace gates, partly to extract confessions that they were on the opposition's payroll.

On-camera testimonies by victims to rights groups spoke of police and palace workers standing by and watching as they were being abused by Brotherhood supporters.

At least 10 people were killed and 700 injured in the clashes on Dec. 5.

The next morning, groups of Morsi supporters staged military-style drills in residential areas near the palace.

Ali, the group's spokesman, denied the existence of any kind of militias.

"We have no military or non-military formations. None whatsoever," he said.

Aref, the other spokesman, disputed the version of events outside Morsi's palace on Dec. 5, saying 11 of the group's supporters were killed by thugs and nearly 1,500 injured, including 132 who were shot.

"The facts of that day were turned upside down to mislead public opinion and the victims became the culprit," he said.


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Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th: 55-inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL-2270DW laser printer

Looking to save some coin on your tech purchases? Of course you are! In this round-up, we'll run down a list of the freshest frugal buys, hand-picked with the help of the folks at Slickdeals. You'll want to act fast, though, as many of these offerings won't stick around long.

Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th: 55-inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL-2270DW

Perhaps some online shopping is just what your Wednesday needs to make it worthwhile. In today's round of links, a 3D HDTV, wireless laser printer, prepaid smartphone and work-ready laptop all make the cut. Take a look at the other side of the break to see 'em all, with pricing and purchase links in tow.

Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th 55inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL2270DW

This deal is available from TigerDirect. Use the rebate form found here.

Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th 55inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL2270DW

Grab one of these from T-Mobile.

Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th 55inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL2270DW

This offer is available from Dell.

Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th 55inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL2270DW

Snag one of these from Amazon.

Slickdeals' best in tech for February 20th 55inch LG 3D HDTV and Brother HL2270DW

This deal is available from Rakuten.

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Kim Kardashian: Excited Over Life's Journey!


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Japan traces Boeing 787 problem to improper wiring, report says

Japan?s investigation into a burning lithium-ion battery aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight found it was improperly wired, according to an Associated Press report.

The country?s Transport Safety Board had been looking into the circumstances that led the All Nippon Airways flight to make an emergency landing in southwestern Japan.

All 137 passengers and crew were evacuated from the aircraft and slid down the Dreamliner's emergency slides. Video of the event captured by a passenger has been viewed worldwide.

According to the AP, the Transport Safety Board?s report said ?the battery of the aircraft's auxiliary power unit was incorrectly connected to the main battery that overheated, although a protective valve would have prevented power from the APU from doing damage.?

More analysis was still needed, the report said.

The announcement was the latest update of the safety investigation into the 787 after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded the aircraft Jan. 16 following two incidents within two weeks involving the batteries.

The technology was also implicated in a Jan. 6 fire aboard a parked 787 in Boston operated by Japan Airlines. The National Transportation Safety Board is still probing the root cause of the event, but said this month that investigators had found a short circuit in one of the aircraft?s batteries.

Boeing has delivered 50 787s to eight airlines worldwide. Six of the planes are owned by United Airlines -- the only U.S. carrier that has 787s in its fleet.

Boeing said that it is unable to comment on the Transportation Safety Board's findings, "as it is part of the investigation in Japan."


Airbus scraps battery plans after Boeing's 787 struggles

NASA observation satellite blasts into orbit from Vandenberg

Boeing 787 Dreamliner fire traced to battery cell, but questions remain


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Famous Cuban blogger makes South Florida stop

MIAMI (WSVN) -- A famous activist and Cuban blogger has planned a South Florida stop.

Yoani Sanchez, a known critic of Cuba's Castro regime, is scheduled to speak at Miami-Dade College's Freedom Tower, April 1.

She will also be presented with the college's presidential medal.

Sanchez recently left Cuba to embark on a global speaking tour after the communist country lifted travel restrictions.

(Copyright 2013 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Boston University leads UAlbany at halftime


ALBANY ? Junior guard D.J. Irving scored 11 first half points to help Boston University to a 32-30 lead over UAlbany in a America East Conference basketball game Wednesday night at Chase Gym.

Irving made three of four shots from 3-point range; as a team the Terriers were 6-14 from long range.

Trailing 16-12 with 9:40 left in the half, the Terriers went on a 11-0 run to take a 23-16 lead with 6:17 left. The Danes clawed back to trail by just two at the break. Sam Rowley led the way with 10 points and a four assists, which ties his career high.

Guard Mike Black added seven points, but was hit with back-to-back offensive fouls and sat the final four minutes of the half on the bench.

Junior forward Gary Johnson made his first career start for the Danes, taking Peter Hooley?s spot (concussion) in the lineup. Hooley, who is also not expected to play Saturday in the Danes BracketBuster game at Fairfield, did not make the trip to Boston. Johnson scored two points ? two free throws ? in his 18 minutes in the first half.


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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

French soldier killed in Mali clash with radicals

PARIS (AP) ? A French soldier was shot to death on Tuesday in a clash with jihadists in a mountainous region of Mali's far north, a critical operation in France's bid to end a growing stranglehold by radicals who had imposed an extreme brand of Islam over more than half the West African country and threatened the borders beyond.

The death of the French Legionnaire, announced by President Francois Hollande, brings to two the number of French troops who have been killed since France launched a surprise military intervention in its former colony on Jan. 11 to push out militants who had taken over the country's vast north. A helicopter pilot was killed on the first day of the intervention.

The latest death also marks the darkest side of the operation as special forces moved into the rocky terrain of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range, thought to be the region where seven French hostages are hidden ? and where jihadists chased from cities they once controlled are thought to have taken refuge.

Military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said 20 extremists were killed on Tuesday, the second day of the ongoing operation? code named Panthere ? aimed at locating jihadists and dismantling their sanctuaries. He said French armored vehicles and Mirage jet fighters hit enemy positions. Air strikes also destroyed two munitions depots.

Hollande vowed to keep up the fighting until "the last chiefs of the terror groups" are eliminated, and said the operation is in its "last phase."

"At this moment we have special forces who are in the north of Mali and who are intervening in a zone that is particularly delicate, which is the Ifoghas mountain range, where terror groups are holed up," he said during a visit to Greece.

"There was a serious clash with several deaths on the side of the terrorists, but also a death on the French side," Hollande said, adding that the soldier killed came from a Legionnaire parachute regiment.

The French-led operation is aimed at preventing the extremists, who are inspired by radical Islam, from taking over all of Mali and destabilizing the region. In justifying the surprise French intervention, Hollande often said that Europe and France were threatened by a takeover of Mali by radicals. Among the leading terror groups is an al-Qaida offshoot, the Algeria-based al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

France has been joined by African troops and is to hand over the military intervention to them with Malian forces in the lead. However, no date has been set. The latest operation was launched on Monday by nearly 150 French and Malian soldiers.

French parachute commandos opened Tuesday's action shortly before 11 a.m., backed by an armored patrol on a reconnaissance mission, a Defense Ministry statement said. They headed into the Adrar des Ifoughas region, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the town of Tessalit which is not far from the Algerian border.

The French forces received support from the armored patrol, which opened fire with 105mm cannons, the military said. Burkhard said the Legionnaire died of gunfire in a clash that lasted five to six hours and involved two French Mirage fighters and a quick-reaction force.

French and Malian forces quickly took back the northern cities of Timbuktu and Gao, but for weeks have been unable to retake the city of Kidal farther north. Insurgents have made forays into Gao since the French arrived.

The move into the Ifoghas region, further north, has been the toughest part of the operation. Families of the seven hostages thought to be held there fear their loved ones may be killed in reprisal for the intervention.

Hollande said the French action was aimed at cutting the head off the jihadist groups. He said French forces have liberated cities, but still must arrest "the last chiefs of the terror groups that remain in the extreme north of Mali."

Hollande said there is "no risk of stalemate" in Mali.

Mali was plunged into turmoil after a coup in March 2012 created a security vacuum that allowed secular rebel Tuaregs to take half the north as a new homeland. In the following months, the rebels were kicked out by the extremists adhering to a radical interpretation of Islam and who imposed strict Shariah law.

The campaign has heightened concerns for Westerners' safety around western Africa.

On Tuesday, a group of French tourists ? four children and three adults ? was kidnapped in Cameroon and reportedly taken to neighboring Nigeria, where extremist Islamist groups have seized other foreign hostages, French officials said. That brings to 15 the number of French hostages in west Africa.


Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.


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TaxACT Deluxe Tablet App (for iPad)

TurboTax Deluxe Online?holds a slight edge over TaxACT Deluxe Online when it comes to desktop tax prep because of its ubiquitous, exceptional help content, so TurboTax took the Editor's Choice there. On tablet's however, it's another story. TaxACT Deluxe Tablet App gets the Editors' Choice for tablet-based tax preparation solutions. It's economical, it's thorough, it's accessible in more ways (Android and iPad?), and, by rewriting the help content and retooling the user interface for tablets, it's become the best all-around mobile solution for personal tax preparation and filing.

Getting Around
TaxACT's user interface is rearranged differently for the tablet version, but it's just as effective. Actually, I prefer it, personally. What is there is arranged very neatly and makes navigation fast and thorough. The navigational tabs that run across the top of the screen in the online browser-based version are now in a vertical pane on the left. Most everything is still there, though there's no data entry box for the Answer Center on the main screen. You can move forward or back to visit different topics by clicking on the main tabs (Basic Info, Life Events, Federal Q&A, etc.) and sub-tabs (like Income, Deductions and Credits).

Once you get into the data entry screens, the app looks and works just like its browser-based counterpart. "Back" and "Continue" buttons move you in reverse or forward. TaxACT walks you through all of the tax-related topics that you need to consider for your situation, asking questions and using standard conventions for your answers: data fields, lists, checkboxes, etc.

When you finish a section, TaxACT summarizes your activity there and lets you go back and revisit topics or enter data in any you somehow missed. As you move through the Q&A, the app takes your answers and places them on the correct lines on the 1040 and its forms and schedules. If you don't have the needed information at hand, you can create a "bookmark" that will remind you later. When you've finished, TaxACT analyzes your return for errors and omissions and lets you correct them right on the same screen. If you pay state income tax, the app automatically imports the data you'll need there. And when you're finally finished, you can print or e-file your return.

Numerous Help Resources
There are three links below the navigational markers in the left vertical pane. "Jump To Forms & Topics" does just what it sounds like: It opens a screen with interactive outlines of forms and schedules, documents received, worksheets and TaxACT topics. These provide a good alternative method for zeroing in on the pages you need.

The Help link is directly below that, and it opens a new set of tabs in the left vertical pane that takes you to TaxACT's eclectic collection of help tools. These are:

? Popular Help Topics: Links to context-sensitive instructions for that topic
? Tax Tutor Guidance: TaxACT's own completely-rewritten-from-the-ground-up help files, which are quite understandable and helpful
? Form Instructions: IRS instructional text
? Tax Glossary: Definitions of common words and phrases
? Video Help Topics: Short educational videos on app help
? IRS Publications: Links to more thorough IRS tutoring

The final link here takes you to the Answer Center. This is where you can search the voluminous help resources within the app. Enter a search work or phrase, and TaxACT provides links to four kinds of help: the best answers, answers that others have found useful, related pages within the app and topical glossary terms. This is great.

A Winning Combination
TaxACT Deluxe Tablet App and its competitors have more similarities than differences. They all use a similar step-by-step, wizard-like interview process to elicit information from you. Help is available in many forms from each, with varying degrees of readability, simplicity and comprehensiveness. The tax topics they cover are roughly comparable. They all offer state versions, analyze your return for problems and help you e-file.

TaxACT Deluxe Tablet App, though, is the clear winner of this year's Editor's Choice for tablet-based apps. It's the most inexpensive. Not only did 2nd Story Software translate the existing browser-based application for mobile use, but they made it better. In doing so, they made their help resources more accessible and effective. It may not download financial data from as many sources as TurboTax, but they've added a convention called the "TaxACT Doc Vault." You can take pictures of receipts, invoices, tax forms etc. through the year and store them in this free app for use when tax prep times rolls around.

Finally, the fact that TaxACT Deluxe Tablet App is the only solution that can be accessed on both the iPad and Android tablets, and, unlike TurboTax for iPad, lets you work on the same return on both your mobile device and your PC-based browser, makes its selection as Editors' Choice a no-brainer. There's no reason to consider any other tablet app for the 2012 tax year.

More Accounting and Tax Reviews:
??? TaxACT Deluxe Tablet App (for iPad)
??? TurboTax SnapTax (for iPhone)
??? eSmart Tax Premium
??? TaxACT Deluxe Online
??? H&R Block At Home Deluxe Online (Tax Year 2012)
?? more


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Microsoft's Outlook takes aim at Google's Gmail

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2012, file photo, Microsoft Corp. retail store employees and guests mingle at a pop-up Microsoft Store during Microsoft's annual meeting of shareholders, in Bellevue, Wash. Longtime users of Hotmail, MSN and other Microsoft email services will start noticing a big change: When they sign in to check messages, they?ll be sent to a new service called (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2012, file photo, Microsoft Corp. retail store employees and guests mingle at a pop-up Microsoft Store during Microsoft's annual meeting of shareholders, in Bellevue, Wash. Longtime users of Hotmail, MSN and other Microsoft email services will start noticing a big change: When they sign in to check messages, they?ll be sent to a new service called (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)

(AP) ? Microsoft is so confident it has the Internet's best email service that it is about to spend at least $30 million to send its message across the U.S.

The barrage begins Tuesday when Microsoft's twist on email,, escalates an assault on rival services from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and a long list of Internet service providers.

As part of the process, all users of Microsoft's Hotmail and other email services operating under different domains such as will be automatically converted to by the summer, if they don't voluntarily switch before then. All the old messages, contacts and settings in the old inboxes will be exported to Users will also be able to keep their old addresses.

Email remains a key battleground, even at a time when more people are texting each other on phones.

People still regularly check their inboxes, albeit increasingly on their smartphones. The recurring email habit provides Internet companies a way to keep people coming back to websites. It gives people a reason to log in during their visits so it's easier for email providers to track their activities. Frequent visits and personal identification are two of the keys to selling ads, the main way most websites make money.

That's why Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have been retooling their email services in recent months.

After keeping in a "preview" phase since July 31, Microsoft Corp. is ready to accept all comers.

To welcome new users, Microsoft is financing what it believes to be the biggest marketing blitz in the history of email. will be featured in ads running on primetime TV, radio stations, websites, billboards and buses. Microsoft expects to spend somewhere between $30 million to $90 million on the Outlook campaign, which will run for at least three months.

The Outlook ads will overlap with an anti-Gmail marketing campaign that Microsoft launched earlier this month. The "Scroogled" attacks depict Gmail as a snoopy service that scans the contents of messages to deliver ads related to topics being discussed.

The Gmail ads are meant to be educational while the Outlook campaign is motivational, said Dharmesh Mehta,'s senior director.

"We are trying to push people who have gotten lazy and comfortable with an email service that may not be all that great and help show them what email can really do for them," said Mehta.

By Microsoft's own admission, Hotmail had lost the competitive edge that once made it the world's largest email service. The lack of innovation left an opening for Google to exploit when it unveiled Gmail nearly nine years ago.

Gmail is now the industry leader, although estimates on its popularity vary.

Google says Gmail has more than 425 million accountholders, including those that only visit on smartphones and other mobile device. The latest data from research firm comScore, which doesn't include mobile traffic, shows Gmail with 306 million worldwide users through December, up 21 percent from the previous year. Yahoo's email ranked second with 293 million users, a 2 percent decrease from the previous year, followed by Hotmail at 267 million users, a 16 percent decline from the previous year.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., is counting on to catapult the company back to the top of the email heap. During the preview period, Outlook attracted 60 million accountholders, including about 20 million that defected from Gmail, according to Microsoft. Comscore listed Outlook with 38 million users through December.

The new features being introduced in Outlook include: the ability to send massive files, including hundreds of photos at a time, in a single email; address books that automatically update new contact information that connections post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; and about 60 percent fewer ads than Hotmail.

None of these features are revolutionary. Google already has been giving its users the option to switch to a new version of Gmail that also allows for larger files to be sent in a single email. And address books in Gmail already fetch new contact information posted on Google Plus, although it doesn't yet mine Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Google declined to comment on The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., plans to convert all of its Gmail users to its redesigned format within the next few months.

Yahoo, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif. revamped its email service late last year in an effort to provide a more consistent experience on personal computers and mobile devices. is the latest in a series of major product leases from Microsoft, which has been struggling to regain the cachet that once made it the world's most valuable technology company.

Now, both Apple Inc. and Google are worth more because they have been growing far faster than Microsoft as their products win more fans. Apple's biggest gains have come from the iPhone and IPad, while Google has been benefiting from its dominance in Internet search and its widely used Android software for mobile devices.

Microsoft has been trying to catch up with a major makeover of its Windows operating system, new smartphone software and a tablet computer called Surface. Like, all those products have been backed by expensive marketing campaigns in recent months.

Associated Press


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